Here’s another Big Idea from Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone:
It pays to be vulnerable when meeting new people. Lots of us wonder how to make small talk more meaningful. The conventional wisdom on small talk is that you should stay away from anything controversial, unpleasant, or personal. Unfortunately, this leaves us with conversation that is light, meaningless and forgettable. We care little for those conversations and never remember them. Problem is, when “networking” we want to remember and be remembered.
Keith’s solution is to leave the wimpy topics behind and get real. “But what if I bring up a topic that they disagree with me about”, you ask, “won’t that be, like, totally awkward?” Here’s Keith’s reply, which I agree with wholeheartedly:
Personally, I’d rather be interested in what someone was saying, even if I disagreed, than be catatonic any day.
So, how do we leave behind the banal pleasantries and get real? This is where being vulnerable comes into play:
Too many people confuse secrecy with importance…Power, today, comes from sharing information, not withholding it. Of course, this isn’t a call to be confrontational or disrespectful. It’s a call to be honest, open, and vulnerable enough to genuinely allow other people into your life so they can be vulnerable in return.
Keith goes on to give an example from his life of using vulnerability while meeting people. He attended a business dinner a few hours after his girlfriend broke up with him, so he was feeling pretty down, not really in the mood for meeting new people. He made “small talk” with the woman sitting next to him, but could tell his heart and her interest were not in it. So he apologized for not being very fun and explained that he had recently gone through a difficult break-up.
She immediately opened up, telling him that she very much understood how he was feeling, and proceeded to inform him about her divorce. Other guests at the table overheard their conversation and joined in with their experiences and relationship advice. The dinner turned out to be a great success and Keith made new friends and business associates as a result.
Moral of the story: Safety—whether in conversation, business, or life—generally produces safe (boring) results. The Big Idea is to be vulnerable when meeting new people and it will lead to better conversations and better beginnings to your relationships.